Need to beat the heat? Stay hydrated

Despite temperatures in the mid- and upper 90s this week, many people will be outside, either because they want to enjoy the July 4th holiday or because it's part of their job.

Posted Updated

Adam Owens
, WRAL anchor/reporter, & Gilbert Baez, WRAL reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — Despite temperatures in the mid- and upper 90s this week, many people will be outside, either because they want to enjoy the July 4th holiday or because it's part of their job.

Raleigh firefighters were out in the heat Wednesday to put out a fire that started on a playground on Wexford Drive, south of downtown, and then spread to some nearby woods.

"Extreme temperatures like this, we have to rotate our personnel out, and we also advise them to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated," Battalion Chief Dennis Marshall said.

The firefighters have to lug around about 40 pounds of equipment on their backs, and their protective suits aren't breathable, Marshall said, so they sweat profusely.

"On an average fire, you can lose about 10 pounds of water weight," he said.

Just being outside in the heat can be hazardous.

"We are going to get the heat-related calls. It happens every time. It will continue to happen," said Jeff Hammerstein, assistant chief of Wake County EMS. "Everyone is susceptible to a heat emergency, no matter how healthy or fit you are."

Hammerstein recommended that anyone outside try to stay in the shade and stay hydrated.

"Make sure you start out with fluids on board, and that can include the day before, the morning of, a couple days before," he said.

Staying hydrated means that, in addition to about eight glasses of water a day – equivalent to about four bottles – drink two bottles in the two to three hours before an outdoor activity and sipping another 10 ounces every 15 minutes outside.

Bob Matthews was heeding that advice at Pullen Park in Raleigh on Wednesday. After about a couple hours, he said it was time to move to cooler ground.

"We always bring a lot of water for hydration because the heat will wear you out of here," Matthews said.

Likewise, the people who crowded Fantasy Lake Water Park in Hope Mills seeking a way to cool off were mindful of drinking water as they splashing in it as well.

"I drink water, swim and eat popsicles," said Kaleeyah Garcia, of Fayetteville.

"Just making sure that we stay hydrated. We have a cooler over there with Gatorade and water," said Stephanie McLeod, of Fayetteville. "Making sure they protect their skin was well with sunscreen and taking periodically breaks, resting in the shade to make sure we don't overheat."

"Anybody in this heat needs to be drinking lots of water," Fantasy Lake owner Marjorie Turner said. "As soon as you come into the parking lot, the first thing that customers engage in is a water cooler – before they even get their bags checked. So, we're actually already encouraging the customers to drink water before they even get close up to the entrance to the park."

Hammerstein said that, if you feel yourself getting weak, confused or cramping, you are likely getting into heat trouble. If you stop sweating, he said, get help right away, as that could signal a big problem.

Bottom line: Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink up.

"Thirst is actually a late sign of dehydration," he said.

Also, remember that all fluids are not created equal.

"Things like caffeinated beverages, coffee, soda and alcohol can all work to pull extra fluid from your body," he said.

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